January 23, 1996

The Honorable John D. Holum, Director
U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
Statement to the United States Delegation
to the Conference on Disarmament

Geneva, Switzerland

Mr. President, the United States congratulates you on assuming the chair for these critical opening weeks. In your efforts and those of your colleagues, you will have the full cooperation of the United States delegation. Let me also thank those who oversaw the remarkable progress achieved last year in the test ban negotiations: Ambassador Dembinski of Poland, Ambassador Norberg of Sweden, and Ambassador Ramaker of the Netherlands.

It is a great pleasure for me to return to the Conference on Disarmament, and again to convey a new message from the President of the United States. President Clinton's message reads as follows:

"The hard work of the Conference on Disarmament has brought within reach a momentous achievement: a true zero yield Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that will endure for all time.

The international community has stated its determination to sign the CTBT during this, the 50th anniversary year of the United Nations. Now it is your responsibility to realize the vision of Prime Minister Nehru, Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, and many other world leaders over the past four decades.

A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is vital to constrain both the spread and further development of nuclear weapons. And it will help fulfill our mutual pledges to renounce the nuclear arms race and move toward our ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear arms.

The Conference on Disarmament has made remarkable progress. Indeed, your progress in just two years has made it possible to conclude the Treaty in the next few months. Now, urgent national political decisions must complement your painstaking work in Geneva, so that the Conference can forward a completed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the UN General Assembly by June.

I pledge the full and energetic support of the United States to conclude promptly a treaty so long sought and so long denied. Let us, now, take this historic step together."

President Clinton's message highlights the welcome reality that the decades-long quest to put an end to all nuclear explosions is nearing fruition. The reasons to complete and sign a comprehensive test ban this year -- as endorsed last month in the United Nations General Assembly -- are the same ones that have underpinned this quest from the beginning. The test ban is both a bulwark against the spread and further evolution of nuclear weapons capabilities, and a necessary step toward the larger goal of nuclear disarmament.

Nevertheless, I must acknowledge that the CTBT is at risk here in Geneva.

Last May in New York, nearly all the countries of the world decided to extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty indefinitely. All will remember the counsel of some that if the NPT were made permanent, then the nuclear weapon states would lose interest in a comprehensive test ban. That was wrong. Lately we have been hearing the argument that the test ban should not be negotiated because the NPT has been made permanent. That is just as wrong.

Today's threat to the test ban wears a benign face. It masquerades as even deeper devotion to arms control. The test ban, it has been suggested, should be linked to, if need be even sacrificed on the altar of, a time-bound framework for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

In response I offer three propositions: First, a comprehensive test ban is itself a profoundly important new constraint, especially on the nuclear weapon states. Second, the CTBT is an indispensable step if the ultimate elimination of nuclear arms is ever to be achieved. And third, holding one important goal hostage for another is a sure way to fail at both.

As to the first proposition, consider what the test ban represents in fact.

Remember that nearly all of the world's nations have separately committed themselves, in effect, not to test, as part of their broader commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT. So the test ban is, fundamentally, a limitation only on countries that have nuclear weapons or hold open the nuclear option -- and most particularly, a limitation on the five nuclear weapon states.

It is incomprehensible how countries with no interest in nuclear weapons, and every interest in a safer planet, could find that an unappealing bargain. For we have come to Geneva to say, "join us in limiting our nuclear weapons programs."

Consider the extend of that limitation. It is true that the CTBT is not a back-door way to ban nuclear weapons. Indeed, a test ban has become a realistic goal today in part because changes in the international security environment have dramatically lessened the role of nuclear weapons. And we believe the far fewer remaining weapons can be maintained safely and reliably without nuclear explosions.

But the safe maintenance of existing weapons designs is a far cry from the confident development of new ones. The latter requires nuclear explosive tests, which the CTBT would preclude.

And no one should believe that such a constraint is without meaning, that the destructive potential of the atom has already been fully plumbed and exploited. Even the open literature points to a broad array of new weapons developments which, with testing, could serve future military programs even in states that have carried out great numbers of nuclear tests.

Many would involve nuclear directed energy weapons -- ways to focus the release of energy with greater precision than is now possible, to enable military effects well beyond those available now. Without nuclear testing the nuclear weapon states will not be able to pursue confidently such technologies as the nuclear-explosion-pumped x-ray laser, the so-called nuclear shotgun, enhanced electro-magnetic pulse weapons, microwave weapons, and enhanced radiation weapons. This is a real constraint -- as is well known by all those who recall past discussions in this very room of enhanced radiation weapons. And the true zero test ban will also place out of reach new "mini-nuke" and "micro-nuke" concepts -- technologies designed to use nuclear explosive yields in small amounts.

By fending off such developments, the CTBT will help make nuclear war less likely, and sustain today's trend toward smaller nuclear arsenals with shrinking roles in national defenses.

Of course, any state's nuclear weapons development program seeks to use nuclear materials more efficiently -- to increase yields, trim weights, reduce volumes, manipulate shapes. This quest for efficiency and flexibility is the most basic reason why countries might test. It is also a most potent catalyst for arms races. To avert it is the test ban's core value, and a profound one.

So let there be no mistake -- the CTBT will help impede the spread of nuclear weapons. But its great practical impact will also be for arms control -- to end development of advanced new weapons and keep new military applications from emerging.

This basic reality also lays to rest the claim that the CTBT will somehow help codify a discriminatory regime, dividing the world between nuclear "haves" and "have nots." In truth, it is and will remain possible to make simple nuclear weapons without nuclear explosive testing. So the CTB's fundamental effect is less to preclude the acquisition of nuclear weapons as such, which the NPT addresses, than to constrain the advancement of nuclear weapons capabilities by any country.

And it will do so by treating all countries the same. To call the test ban discriminatory is to blame it for things wholly outside its purview. More important, to defeat or derail the test ban on such grounds would be to prescribe, as an answer to discrimination, the remedy of more, rather than fewer, nuclear weapon states. Who in this Conference wants to endorse such a perverse cure as that?

My second proposition relates to the commitment affirmed at the NPT Review and Extension Conference to the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. In an uncertain world, the path to that goal is not yet clearly marked. What is clear, however, is that the ultimate goal will be reached only through realistic moves forward, as genuine security concerns permit, with each step building on those before it. And it should be obvious to all that the CTBT is the next attainable major step on that path.

Consider, as well, that the CTBT's contribution to the process of nuclear disarmament goes well beyond its immediate impact on countries. It is a contribution described in detail in countless statements in this body, in the United Nations, and from podiums in capitals throughout the world. It is a contribution voted for with enthusiasm by states large and small, West and East and Non-aligned, for well over a quarter of a century, in resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, even when the United States was not in a position to join in support of those resolutions. It is a contribution foreshadowed by the preamble to the 1963 Treaty of Moscow, the Partial or Limited Test Ban Treaty, to which over 115 of the global community's states are party, including every nuclear capable state not party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is a contribution reflected in the preamble of the NPT itself, which now counts as parties more than 180 states. It is a contribution adopted without objection in the decision documents of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference.

That contribution is, above all, the embodiment of the international community's political commitment to make good on its pledges, to seize the moment when it is finally at hand -- and not to erect, at a very late date, new demands and new obstacles to taking a concrete step that all states recognize for both its intrinsic and its symbolic importance. Because our political commitment to disarmament is so bound up with this decision, I believe the practical reality is this: we will never achieve a world free of nuclear weapons unless we first achieve a world free of nuclear explosions. So let's get to it.

The same logic applies to my third proposition -- that the strategy of linkage is a strategy of failure. To reach that conclusion it is necessary only to contemplate honestly how further arms control efforts will fare if the test ban should fail -- if we all must drag ourselves home from Geneva with nothing to show but recriminations and debaters' points for the next global conference.

Linkage here would be especially self-defeating. For it effectively would pit against one another aims that should reinforce one another. And in this case it is also manifestly absurd. The answer to a world of too many nuclear weapons obviously is not a world of more nuclear explosions.

In short, the CTB can either bring an end to nuclear explosive testing, or it can be twisted into a misshapen and ineffectual pry-bar for other goals. But if we burden it with both tasks, it will fracture and do neither.

It would be not just deeply ironic, but tragic, if one of the international community's highest goals for forty years suddenly lost is appeal just as the world was about to grasp it. The appeal of the unattainable may be the stuff of great love sonnets -- but it is not sensible policy or diplomacy. We should not perversely veer away from the CTB because it is at last within reach.

Rather, this is a time for the world to keep its eye on the prize that stands immediately and attainably before it: a truly comprehensive ban on all nuclear weapon test explosions, or any other nuclear explosions.

We have a major, but surmountable, challenge ahead to meet the standard set for us by the global community.

United Nations General Assembly resolution 50/65 calls for conclusion of the negotiations so that the Treaty can be opened for signature prior to the convening of the 51st General Assembly. If it is not completed by April, then the Conference must seriously take stock of how to make use of the remaining weeks prior to the end of the second part of this session. For it is imperative to report the complete text of the CTBT to the General Assembly by June, at the very latest, if we are to allow for its examination in capitals and then endorsement by the General Assembly that it be opened for signature by the agreed date.

Everyone is aware of the rolling text, and its more than a thousand pairs of brackets. To resolve them promptly is indeed a daunting task. But it can be completed, or virtually so, by the end of the first part of this session. Why do I make such a bold statement? Because, in fact, there are far from a thousand issues involved in the brackets. The basic issues are only a few, and their resolution -- primarily a matter of political decisions -- will allow the prompt removal or condensation of large tracts of disputed text.

But we must be keenly aware that this moment of unparalleled opportunity is fleeting ... that the window of opportunity now open before us may be slammed shut as early as this summer. And we must act accordingly.

This means all of us must work in a businesslike spirit of accommodation and compromise. It demands that we not interpose new obstacles, but rather cut through the underbrush -- abandoning placeholder language, stances taken with the intention of someday being bargained away, pet positions that do not command serious international support. The time has come to move to closure on common ground.

It is in this spirit that President Clinton withdrew last year the United States proposal for a l0-year withdrawal right. In the same spirit, in August, President Clinton announced the United States commitment to a true zero yield CTBT -- with no exceptions. We have been working hard to find common ground on other outstanding issues.

But time is short: we now have only 49 negotiating days left before the end of the first part of this session. So we must do all that is necessary -- in capitals no less than here in Geneva -- to ensure that every hour of every one of these 49 days is used to utmost effect.

Any slippage from this demanding schedule could be fatal to the Treaty. And any delays will only expose the treaty to further risks. A Treaty once more deferred may be a CTB denied.

So my overarching message is this: We are closer to success than many think. We can meet the deadline -- if we turn our attention not to protecting options or preserving bargaining chips, but to completing this historic mission.


Mr. President, the CTB has been the first item on the agenda of this body from its inaugural meetings. As our predecessors know all too well, the CTB's history is long and tortuous; and still it lacks a worthy conclusion.

But all the while two things have remained constant. Nuclear testing has continued. And the world's store of knowledge about how nuclear weapons work has continued to expand, with no end in sight.

At this moment of promise and peril, two potential races beckon us. One is the sprint to the finish of a truly comprehensive ban on all nuclear explosions. The other race is all too familiar -- the arms competition that has brought into the world so many deadly weapons, at such cost in talent and treasure.

In the next ten weeks, we can win the former race, and so help end the latter for all time.

And if the Conference on Disarmament cannot conclude its work, our failure will be a grave setback not just for arms control, but for multilateral institutions and multilateral diplomacy more broadly. It will be ammunition for the cynics who claim that nothing truly important should be entrusted to such bodies.

The world's nuclear weapons have been tested in over 2000 explosions at more than 20 locations around the globe. Their deadly efficacy is all too clear.

Now, here in this body, the workings of another way of resolving humanity's disagreements are on trial. Now it is we who are being tested.

We dare not fail. Our success will ring through ages to come.